Mellowing effect of kindness

According to Dr David Hamilton, an act of kindness produces the hormone oxytocin which in turn causes the release of chemicals to reduce blood pressure and combat stress damage. These physiological changes create an atmosphere of bonding.

Acts of kindness

My mother said “I am with you” as I explained my PhD proposal to her on unconventional wisdom for well-being. I was used to feeling tension on this subject, but as I communicated in an honest and heartfelt way I was surprised to find that she was on my side. Her tone was soft, her gaze was gentle and we later hugged. I don’t need her approval to be happy, but it makes a difference.

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Only us


“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” – Mary Oliver

Paying attention

I noticed a few lovely moments this week. An evening in with a friend’s family – eating pizza, playing a board game and drinking hot chocolate. Around the table at tea break with colleagues – feeling supported in my low mood with no pressure to talk, listening to the conversation with gratitude. A heart to heart with a friend – discussing the important things, holding little back, connecting with something beyond us. Continue reading

Big hearts for a big world

Big hearts for a big world

Over the next while, I want to focus my energy on writing about interactions with people who show compassion, generosity and kindness in everyday life. In doing so, I hope to become more aware of such moments when they are happening, which can often be missed if I am not attentive to the stirrings in my heart. I begin by focusing on two special moments.

Burst of encouragement

Firstly, I recall when a writer showed me the publication of his latest book one day. He wanted to share the good news with me after his hard grafting and work over many months to make it happen. I had already read some of his writing and was keen to find out more. The best thing about his good news for me was when he declared spontaneously, “You can write a book too!” Continue reading

Gently, kindly, lovingly

gently, kindly, lovingly

I have come from another Zen retreat which involved silent sitting meditation and silent walking meditation for three days. It was wonderful to tune into a sensitivity at the level of impulse. I am reminded of Saint Ignatius Loyola who maintained that a positive source “touches the soul gently, lightly, and sweetly, like a drop of water going into a sponge”. This is what it was like for me after a while at the retreat. When I got distracted, I found myself saying “gently, kindly, lovingly” from the core of my being. Then I returned to listening to the breath in my belly. Continue reading

The value of time


“Have you ever noticed that an answer might arise within your being when you put the phone down for a while – during a moment of doing ‘nothing’? That is because your mind is doing what it’s supposed to do without your conscious effort. It doesn’t always need your help and googling to find the answer. Or you may find great peace and clarity after a long pause that enables you to live in the moment, and the next day you notice that your memory and concentration are better.” – An extract from my book

Emotional health

Suffering and joy

“Mourning calls forth dancing. Dancing calls forth mourning. And it is this mysterious duel that has become a duet.” – Henri Nouwen


Firstly, there is a clear dynamism in this saying: a movement between mourning and dancing, crying and laughing, suffering and joy. One experience invites the realisation of the other experience in a free-flowing manner. It respects the cycle of life like the formation of rain, the photosynthesis of plants, the death and growth of the universe. It is a balanced perspective that can appear in a conversation between colleagues at tea break. We can talk about the ups and downs, we can laugh out loud and sigh in empathy, we can move from one affective experience to another. Continue reading

Inner strength

Inner strength

When I was a trainee psychologist, the belief in the ‘inner strength’ of the client and therapist was very important to me. It made sense. It seemed deep. I wanted to know more. But I was upset because the person’s spiritual and faith dimensions were not mentioned as part of this conceptualisation. Eventually the more congruent thing for me was to withdraw from graduate studies and pay attention to my longings and yearnings. Continue reading